Student Research Projects

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Biological Sciences, Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, Psychology


A key part of episodic memory, or memory for the events of our lives, is recognition memory. Recognition memory is the ability to remember previously encountered stimuli. Studies have linked recognition memory to the old/new effect, an EEG indicator of stimulus familiarity. Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) is an enzyme that catalyzes monoamines, leading to the depletion of norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. MAO-A is more efficiently transcribed in individuals with a 4 repeating sequence variation (4R) of the MAO-A gene leading to less monoamine availability. As many of these monoamines have been linked to episodic memory, we hypothesized that individuals homozygous for the 4R MAO-A polymorphism would show differences in mean EEG signal amplitudes during recognition memory. EEG data was recorded as participants viewed both new words and words that had been previously presented. Our results show that mean peak amplitudes over the left parietal cortex 500-800 ms post-stimulus presentation for hits were greater than those for correct rejections, indicating the old/new effect. Critically, our results revealed an interaction between mean hit and correct rejection amplitude over the left parietal cortex and MAO-A group. Individuals homozygous for the 4R variation (the High MAO-A group) do not show an old/new effect due to increased correct rejection amplitudes. These results suggest that less monoamine availability leads to new stimuli being identified as old by the left parietal cortex.

Date of Publication or Presentation

Spring 4-2014

Project Type

Undergraduate Research Project

College or School


First Advisor

Robert Ross